Deciding why you care about politics


I have a question for you. I’m going to try and offer it up in an extremely basic fashion, and then we can walk around a bit and take a look from a few different angels.



Do you care about politics?

That’s it. Do you care about politics?

On the surface, it seems like a pretty simple question. A yes-or-no question.

For most people, the quick-and-dirty-and-far-too-easy answer is no.

A huge chunk of the eligible population in the United States doesn’t vote in elections. If we can agree—and honestly, this idea isn’t even open for debate—that many people that do vote are doing so because they can, know they should, and care enough about the can and should that they do, but haven’t done any research into the candidates or issues and don’t pay much attention to the news and so on… then yeah, the answer is no.

Deep down and around this corner and that corner, it seems like a pretty simple question. And yet it can be seen as a question offered with hidden meanings and potential punchlines. Still, since you more likely than not don’t remember the names of all the local candidates you selected, or all the special items involved on your last ballot… yup… it’s a no.

For some, politics can be incredibly serious, while for others it is an extreme joke. Even with both cases, a large chunk of people don’t actually care about politics so much as it is an acknowledgement of the role politics plays in daily life.

And yet…

Years ago—and we’ll say years without calling it two or thirty or something in between, to prevent any specifics that don’t really matter on the path we’re using—I was having a discussion with a handful of friends. Something had happened in the news, making politics a momentary conversation topic in a very casual over-a-cup-of-coffee setting. And according to this person, the only thing that mattered when it came to politicians were the results that involved investments and retirement.

In short… 401k… goes up, and this friend will tell you that politics are being handled quite nicely… goes down, politics are bad bad bad.

It is within this idea that we find our true answer to the politics and caring question. A different answer. Because, we actually all care. The trick is, each of us cares about something different.

Employment opportunities… immigration scenarios… the largest and smallest of issues matters to someone. If you don’t think politics might matter to everyone, stand next to a homeowner when they open the letter delivering the news that their property taxes have gone up.

The question isn’t whether or not you care about politics. You do. We can find an issue that matters. Which means the question is why. Why do you care about politics?

Much as I can’t get all of you to care that a favorite television show of mine has been cancelled, the reality is we will never come to an agreement on all aspects of politics. Can’t happen. Too many diverse interests and too many differing opinions. For the most part, I would argue that those differences are healthy and what makes the opportunities of the system in America great. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe there are problems.

The biggest issue I tend to worry about is the kind action-reaction-walk-away approach from many people. It’s when we hear from some about the way they absolutely think things should be, but they don’t want to be around to pay the price or clean up the mess caused by their approach to the problem.

Let’s blindly walk into the combination of illegal immigration and employment. Simply,,, naively… even carefully… without picking a side or stand in the debate. Offered as the centerpiece: All of us have heard that in the United States there are people in this country illegally that are stealing jobs from our country’s citizens.

On the surface, this seems like a really simple topic. Illegally in the country… opportunities denied to those legally in the country. But do you have all the details? Just a few random questions:

  • Can you name five specific job areas being taken from Americans by illegal immigrants? (Can you name three?)
  • Are the jobs where you are mostly likely to find the highest numbers of illegal immigrants jobs that Americans want to work?
  • What are the conditions and circumstances that are driving employers to make the decision to hire illegal immigrants?

Again, I’m not asking questions like these to bring this essay to a debate specific to immigration and employment. Instead, I want to point out that many people don’t have all of the details. They preach and even scream about how awful it is that Americans are having jobs stolen by people that shouldn’t be in the country. And yet, they don’t know the work these people are doing… can’t identify the citizens being denied these jobs… and have no clue about the laws, marketplace, and other factors that brought about the situation.

Happy to yell about the trash along the side of the road. Walk away without cleaning it up. Expect someone else to clean it up. Unwilling to pay for the trash bags needed to clean it up.

There is nothing wrong with being concerned primarily with how your retirement investments are doing. Nothing wrong with wanting your trash to be picked up without property taxes rising. Nothing wrong with wanting people to use the proper procedures for entering the country or applying for employment. There is nothing wrong with you having an opinion or strong belief, and within that nothing wrong with it differing from the opinions and beliefs of your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and so on.

Simply put: You can care about politics.

Where that turns and shifts is in the conversation aspect of things. For me, to turn a phrase for the general concept, you have to do the work. You have to give a bit in order to get. And that means if you want to share your thoughts, and expect to be heard, then you need to afford some respect to the possibilities of the other side.

To be blind and ignorant (and an assortment of other words and thoughts) is insulting and truly naïve. And the way far too many people are approaching issues is as scary as it is laughable.

Do you remember the classic saying that goes along the idea of it being better to be thought of as an idiot than to do something that proves it? Well, it turns out we have a lot of certified idiots in our country. And they aren’t afraid of proving it, again and again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I finished this essay and put it to the side for a couple of days. I knew I hadn’t been to polarizing in content by design, but I wanted to come back and view it after some separation. Accidents do happen. (And, unfortunately, there will be those looking to find much more in my words than intended.)

When I did, I found myself wanting to clarify how I could: (1) introduce my main idea in the title, (2) open with an idea that was more generic, (3) swing it back to the main idea, and then, (4) spin off into a conclusion that stated what we really need to do is create a forum for exchanging ideas and then learn to listen. (More or less.)

I decided to add this little bonus segment and go back to the topic I used as an example… immigration and employment.

If you bring up the subject of immigration, many people immediately shift to illegal immigration. They grab the microphone, offer about four words (something like “they are here illegally”), and stress one of those words (the “illegally”). This is followed by a brief pause, a look that expresses nothing but smug arrogance, and finishes with what the person believes is an appropriate and concluding mic-drop.

Now that key word—illegally—is a very strong one. If we attempted to bring the debate into a court of law, it probably is a finishing move. (Cue smugness and mic-drop. Add a touch of snarky smugness, say with an eye twitch and quick head tilt tossed in, acknowledging my acknowledgement of the finishing move.)

But let’s explore what I noted about a willingness for conversation. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Doesn’t mean you’re right. Just means taking in all the information, in a truly balanced exchanged. That’s the learning to listen part. Or, more to the point in the essay, respect the possibilities of the other side while understanding that there will be a reaction to your action.

I presented a few sample questions. Let’s say the “…here illegally…” position wins and those illegal immigrants are addressed in some fashion. For my thinking, you still haven’t addressed if these jobs are jobs that American citizens will do, nor why the employers sought out the staff they hired. And both of those scenarios contain some very interesting and important possibilities.

Absolutely, in broad sweeping vagueness, the answer is to do things the proper way. Got it. But don’t drop the mic and walk away. Finish the job.

Did you consider that the employer might be doing business with such razor thin margins that they cannot afford to pay anything more than they already do? That the unstable factors such as gas prices and market competition might already have them on the brink of financial disaster?

Maybe you have. And if you have, tremendous.

But if you haven’t, how will you feel when no American citizens apply for the jobs? What are you going to do when the prices you pay for things go up? What are you going to do when competition vanishes?

And I need to begin moving toward a close by making this abundantly clear… I agree with the idea of having people enter our country the proper way. I would like for employers to do things legally. I am by no means, in any way or shape or form, supporting illegal immigration or the hiring of illegal immigrants.

What I am saying is that you can’t jump on a soap box, whip the crowd into a frenzy by pretending it’s simple, and then walk away. It’s not simple. You don’t get to complain about a problem to the point where it gets changed, and then get mad because others react to the new way of doing things by doing things differently.

You need to actually investigate and solve the problem.

We all care about politics. Or, at least some part of what goes into politics. But most people aren’t willing to do even a small part of the work that keeps things moving in a creative, energetic, and beneficial direction.


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